The Penalties Of A California DUI Conviction
Drinking and driving is a bad idea. California courts look very unfavorably on those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), and the penalties can be very severe. While the minimum and maximum penalties for a DUI are defined by state statutes, judges will also consider any aggravating or mitigating circumstances when determining a sentence.
Additionally, sentencing is also determined in part by the number of prior DUI convictions (if any) a defendant has. In California, a DUI counts as a prior conviction for ten years. So, a DUI that occurred more than ten years ago disappears for purposes of determining whether a current DUI is a second or subsequent offense.
First DUI Conviction Penalties
A first DUI conviction in California is a misdemeanor, not a felony. Penalties typically include some combination of fines, probation, license suspension, and jail time. The minimum and maximum for each of those is:
Fines: $390 to $1000, plus additional “penalty assessments” that can dramatically increase the total amount owed.
Probation: First-time offenders typically receive a 3-5 year term of probation. During probation, defendants must complete a three month DUI school program.
License Suspension: Six months is the most common length of suspension for a first DUI conviction. First offenders are generally allowed to apply for a restricted license that allows them to drive to and from work and/or school, but that’s it.
Jail Time: First offenders may be sentenced with anywhere from 48 hours to six months in jail. However, many judges order probation instead of jail time for a first DUI conviction.
Second DUI Conviction Penalties
A second DUI conviction is also a misdemeanor in California. The types of penalties are the same as those for a first conviction, but some are more severe.
Fines: The fines for a second DUI are the same as for the first, $390 to $1000, plus penalty assessments.
Probation: Also 3-5 years, with a requirement to complete an 18 or 30 month course at DUI school.
License Suspension: Two year minimum suspension, and defendants can apply for a restricted license.
Jail Time: A second DUI conviction comes with a minimum of 96 hours in jail, up to one year. Sentences are occasionally allowed to be served via house arrest or a jail-alternative program.
Third DUI Conviction Penalties
A third DUI conviction can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which one a prosecutor charges a defendant with will depend on the exact circumstances of the incident.
Fines: Fines for a third conviction are the same as for the first and second.
Probation: 3-5 years, with a requirement to complete a full 30 month course at DUI school.
License Suspension: Three year minimum suspension, and defendants can apply for a restricted license.
Jail Time: 120 days minimum, up to one year.
DUI With Injuries Or Death
If you injure or kill someone as a result of driving under the influence, the penalties are vastly more severe.
Injuries: Injury DUIs are wobbler crimes, which means they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. If charged as a felony (typical if the victim’s injuries are severe) a conviction carries a prison sentence from 16 months up to four years.
Death: If someone is killed as a result of your DUI, you may be charged with either vehicular manslaughter or second-degree murder. The penalties for these crimes vary a large amount depending on the facts of the case, but a defendant should expect to go to jail for a substantial period of time if convicted.
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